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Phelwana was named by Anthony Hall-Martin when he was seen emerging from the Phelwana stream and tributary of the Timbavati in the central region of the Kruger National Park, South Africa.
He made a name for himself with a local farmer whose naartjie trees were often picked upon by this enormous tusker, creating a comedic (for the reader) love-hate relationship between the two. Phelwana’s massive ivory weighed in at a combined 135.5kg, topped only by Mandleve. He regularly overrode western boundary fences near the Orpen Gate, granting himself access to the neighbouring Manyeleti and Timbavati Reserves.
This giant did not see a peaceful end waiting for his final set of molars to wear thin. On the 22nd January 1988 game scout Armand Ndhlouvu of the Kingfisherspruit Section reported that Phelwana was in difficulty, noting that he had been shot (possibly from poachers) and that his condition was poor and he could scarcely walk. Assistance was called in and the elephant was darted for examination. A bullet wound from a heavy caliber rifle in the neck region had gone septic, and has also shattered his lower jawbone which made feeding and drinking extremely difficult. There was little hope of saving him and it was agreed to put him down. He was remembered as a gentle giant.
Text: Chloe Cooper & South African National Parks
Photo copyright: Letaba Elephant Hall